PrePoint

February 17, 2009

Invasion Of The Clapplets

Filed under: Groundwork — mikecane @ 3:09 pm

There’s a very disturbing trend in the birthing that I’d really like to see aborted before it reaches full term: Customized apps that aggregate information from companies/sites.

It was cute when Penguin Books did it for the iPhone.

But now it’s becoming a new — and nightmarish — business practice:

Introducing Yahoo!® Mobile – Your Starting Point to the Internet

yahoomobile01

BARCELONA, Spain–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) today announced the upcoming launch of its new Yahoo! Mobile service – a highly-personalized mobile starting point to the Internet. Yahoo! Mobile will be available on the mobile Web, as an app developed for the Apple® iPhone™, and as an app developed for smartphones from Nokia®, RIM®, Samsung®, Sony Ericsson® and Motorola® as well as those powered by Windows Mobile®. Yahoo! Mobile initially will be available today through a managed beta program, with general availability expected in Q2 2009.

“We believe the new Yahoo! Mobile will transform the way millions of mobile users around the world will interact with the Internet,” said Marco Boerries, executive vice president, Yahoo! Inc. “Yahoo! Mobile will enable users to create their own Internet starting point on their mobile device so they can better discover, connect to and stay informed about the people and things that are important to them.”

Emphasis added by me.

MySpace Mobile Launches New Mobile Website
MySpace Continues Commitment to Mobile Social Web by Announcing Support for Palm and Nokia Smart Devices

BARCELONA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–MySpace, the world’s leading social portal, today announced the launch this week of a new, more integrated and optimized mobile Website for the 20 million worldwide members accessing its mobile website every month. Also at the conference, MySpace reinforced its continued commitment to the mobile social Web with plans to develop new applications for Nokia in their S60 web runtime environment and Palm’s new webOS, first available on the Palm Pre. With this announcement MySpace furthers its leadership in mobile as it will be the only social network with applications supported on all smartphone platforms currently active in mobile social networking: iPhone, Google Android, Sidekick, Nokia, Palm and BlackBerry.

“We want our users to be able to access MySpace from any device,” said John Faith, vice president and general manager of MySpace Mobile. “We are committed to building apps for platforms we feel are groundbreaking to offer our users the best possible on-the-go MySpace experience.”

Emphasis added by me.

I’m coining the term “clapplet” for these: CLoud APPLET.

What’s worse than those two moves — and you can be sure there are others in the works we haven’t yet heard about — is that web interactivity specialist Jakob Nielsen is now touting these things!

Mobile Web 2009 = Desktop Web 1998

For the best user performance, you should design different websites for each mobile device class — the smaller the screen, the fewer features, and the more scaled back your design. The very best option is to go beyond browsing and offer a specialized downloadable mobile application for your most devoted users.

Emphasis added by me.

Currently, the iPhone has room for 148 “apps” on its home screen carousel. Some of those “apps” are actually eBooks wrapped in readers. Now some of those “apps” will be detours around the laziness and/or incompetency of a company’s web designers, such as the one from Penguin — and all the rest that are in the works.

I don’t know how many apps the Palm Pre will be “limited” to on its Launcher carousel, but I do know this: specialized “apps” to access information is an idea that must be exterminated ASAP.

This was my initial opinion of this practice:

As for me, I find this app to be very strange. I really don’t know what to make of it. It’s like they’ve set up a “Penguin Books Channel” on the iPhone. Will other publishers do this too? That’d pretty much be a nightmare, having to launch separate apps for each publisher. Isn’t that what Safari Bookmarks and well-designed websites are supposed to provide?

As it is, there are now multiple eBook readers and multiple comic book readers available for the iPhone. Each app does things its own way and can — in most cases — only read files formatted for it. What Teleread’s David Rothman justifiably calls the “Tower of eBabel” has gained a few new floors with the iPhone.

I’ve since grown even more disgusted by the idea.

Do you really want a future like this:

You use your smartphone browser to go to a site for the first time. The site senses the phone you’re on and immediately offers you a screen that invites you to download their custom app.

You do so.

After that download comes some behind-the-scenes uploading of certain information from your phone. Maybe your browser cookies are grabbed. Or maybe your Home Location or Current Location. Your privacy has been swapped for… what exactly?

You activate the app and find to your — inevitable! — disappointment that it’s nothing more than a cheesy marketing app that doesn’t provide any of the information you planned to get from the website itself.

Let’s go one step further in this hell. When you quit the app to try to go back to the website via your browser, it already knows you’ve downloaded the app and it autoevilly quits your browser and launches the damn app!

The only way for you to access the website via your phone again is to delete the app itself. But don’t forget: When you go back, you’ll be invited to download it again!

And that’s only a small part of the nightmare.

Imagine having your Palm Pre loaded with these clapplets. Let’s rattle off what a dark future could manifest, one each for: your bank, your electric company, your gas company, your smartphone vendor, your cellphone carrier, your child’s school/daycare, your doctor, your hospital, your pharmacy, your cable TV provider, your local mass transit company, your local library, your car mechanic, your plumber, your dentist, your municipal government, your state government, our federal government, possible separate ones for each government agency — and one for each news site you read, one for each Internet site or blog you visit. And more. Much, much more.

Just how “clapped out” will our Palm Pre become? How useful will the browser be if everyone wants to bypass it with their own “channel” on the Pre?

How will we be able to easily navigate between real apps and clapplets?

How much storage space is going to be wasted for clapplets that are used perhaps only once or twice a month, if that?

This is going to be a nightmare.

And it has already backfired in one instance: The Android App Store. I wanted to see what applications are available for the T-Mobile G1. But I couldn’t. The only way to access the store is via a G1. There is no website. There’s not even a desktop app like iTunes so I can browse and perhaps become interested in the G1 through what others have created for it. It’s incredibly shortsighted for Google to think only current G1 owners would be interested in Android apps. How does that grow the potential market?

This is the endgame of clapplets: No more Internet as we know it. I can see a day a few years from now when you’ll call up an URL and be told there is no website, only an clapplet for your smartphone. Why not? Think about it: a clapplet on your phone allows them total control over what they want you to see. Moreso than a website. Discoveries have been made on the Net by people fooling around with URLs. Clapplets will prevent that.

No. No. No. Stop. Please stop. Just stop now. Really. Stop.

3 Comments »

  1. Sorry Mike, I think with *web*OS you’re going to see a ton of clapplets. Give the dev’s a browser based development environment and I expect the primary use is going to be to build apps that serve up cloud based services (something about “if all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail” goes approximately here).

    I’m not sure I see the harm in such clapplets, and although it is an entertaining rant to read I don’t see the future you paint where one’s clapplets are a mandatory replacement for mobile web access nor where they suddenly invade your privacy without notice). I’m actually hoping to see some on-device apps (clapps?) for some cloud services, like google docs, google maps, mobile Picasa, etc., or at least see these services sync’d with the equivalent on-device app so I that don’t have to fire up the web and browse around and re-download my data every time I want to access a google doc that I previously created. I don’t always want to have to use the browser (and rely on available web access) to access my files or services.

    How pissed would you be if the only option for gmail or google calendar support on the Pre was via the browser? Obviously you seem to be a little more upset at the idea of “one function only” clapps that replace (not enhance) browser access, but essentially Palm’s on-device email and calendar apps are primarily portals to cloud services. The Amazon MP3 store Pre app is a good example of a clapplet I’m thrilled about, the iPhone’s Orb clapplet is one I feel great envy for.

    Maybe after suffering under Windows Mobile (with which the cloud services are never integrated with the device nor even fully functional via a browser) I’m just excited at the prospect of custom-for-my-device integrated services. Instant connection to a cloud service and my cached/sync’d data sounds really great.

    Comment by Galt — February 17, 2009 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  2. Shouldn’t these ‘Clapplets’ really be called ‘Crapplets’?

    Comment by eccleshill — February 17, 2009 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

  3. @eccleshill: No. Crapplets have no use or are designed poorly for their use.

    @Galt: My fear should be clear. That clapplets will atrophy the Net as we know it.

    Comment by mikecane — February 18, 2009 @ 10:51 am | Reply


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